Course Syllabus

17-333 / 17-733 / 19-608 / 95-818

Fall 2018

Pittsburgh: Monday and Wednesday 10:30–11:50 AM ET, GHC 4211
Kigali: Tuesday and Thursday 4:30–5:50 PM CAT, C520


Prof. Lujo Bauer
Office: CIC 2203; office hours by appointment

Prof. Timothy Libert; email hours 9-4:30, M-F 
Office: CIC 2125; office hours by appointment

Teaching Assistants: Jaspreet Bhatia (Pittsburgh) and Viola Nuwaha (Kigali)

Course Description

This course focuses on policy issues related to privacy from the perspectives of governments, organizations, and individuals. We will begin with a historical and philosophical study of privacy and then explore recent public policy issues. We will examine the privacy protections provided by laws and regulations, as well as the way technology can be used to protect privacy. We will emphasize technology-related privacy concerns and mitigation, for example: social networks, smartphones, behavioral advertising (and tools to prevent targeted advertising and tracking), anonymous communication systems, big data, and drones.

This course is part of a three-course series of privacy courses offered as part of the MSIT-Privacy Engineering masters program. These courses may be taken in any order or simultaneously. Foundations of Privacy (offered in the Fall semester) offers more indepth coverage of technologies and algorithms used to reason about and protect privacy. Engineering Privacy in Software (offered in the Spring semester) focuses on the methods and tools needed to design systems for privacy.

This course is intended primarily for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students (juniors and seniors) with some technical background. Programming skills are not required. 17-733, 19-608, and 95-818 are 12-unit courses for Masters and PhD students. Students enrolled under these course numbers will have extra assignments and will be expected to do a project suitable for publication. 17-333 is a 9-unit course for undergraduate students. Masters students may register for any of the course numbers permitted by their program. This course will include a lot of reading, writing, and class discussion. Students will be able to tailor their assignments to their skills and interests, focusing more on programming or writing papers as they see fit. However, all students will be expected to do some writing and some technical work. A large emphasis will be placed on research and communication skills, which will be taught throughout the course.

Required Textbook

Note: See next section about acquiring textbooks. We will discuss this during the first lecture; you need not order books before then. Any required readings will be provided in PDF form for the first several lectures.

J.C. Cannon. Privacy in Technology: Standards and Practices for Engineers and Security and IT Professionals. IAPP: 2014.

Order these books from the IAPP at

All online papers are either publicly available for free, available through the CMU library for free, or available in a password-protected part of this website to students in this course. (The CMU library provides a VPN for off-campus and wireless access to library materials.)

Note on the IAPP certification exam:

The IAPP has historically offered CMU students a Student Certification Package that includes 1 year IAPP membership + textbooks + online training materials +practice exam + 1 Computer Based Test Exam for $140 per student.

Normally you would have to pay $50 for student membership, $550 to take the exam, over $100 for the books, and over $1000 for access to the online training materials and practice tests. So this is a good deal. If you are taking 17-333 / 17-733 / 19-608 / 95-818 Privacy Policy, Law, and Technology you will need these books for class, so even if you don't plan to take the exam you might want to get the student package.

We will soon provide more information on how to sign up for the certification package.

Optional texts

Dave Eggers. The Circle. Knopf, 2013.


By the end of this course, students should:

  • Be able to discuss why privacy is important to society
  • Be familiar with the fair information practice principles as well as the privacy law and policy landscape in the United States
  • Understand the differences between privacy regulation in the US and EU, and be able to discuss different regulatory approaches to privacy
  • Be able to read, understand, and evaluate privacy policies
  • Understand the mechanics of online tracking and other technologies with privacy implications
  • Be able to communicate the privacy implications of a technology with policy-makers, lawyers, and engineers
  • Be prepared to pass the IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional exams

Course Requirements and Grading

Your final grade in this course will be based on:

  • 10% class participation (class attendance, participation in class and online discussions)
  • 15% quizzes
  • 25% homework assignments
  • 25% project
  • 25% midterms

You are expected to complete the reading assignments before the class session for which they were assigned. Class discussions will often be based on these assignments and you will not be able to participate fully if you have not done the reading. It is suggested that you write up summaries and highlights as you read each chapter or paper and bring them with you to class.

Quizzes at the beginning of each class will be based on the readings for that day. It is suggested that you arrive on time in order to complete the daily quiz with sufficient time.

All homework assignments must be typed and submitted electronically on Canvas by class on the day it is due. Every homework submission must include a properly formatted bibliography that includes all works you referred to as you prepared your homework. These works should be cited as appropriate in the text of your answers.

All homework is due at the beginning of class on the due date. You will lose 10% for turning in homework late (5 minutes or more after class has started) on the due date. You will lose an additional 10% for each late day after that. We reserve the right to take off additional points or refuse to accept late homework submitted after the answers have been discussed extensively in class. Reasonable extensions will be granted to students with excused absences or extenuating circumstances. Please contact me as soon as possible to arrange for an extension.

Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructor. Please familiarize yourself with the CMU Policy on Academic Integrity.

Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due